On Monday, November 19, the California Office of Traffic Safety released the results of a federally funded survey of alcohol and drug use by weekend drivers. The survey found that one in every seven drivers had drugs in their system.
The California Office of Traffic Safety press release stated that over 1,300 drivers were voluntarily tested for alcohol and drugs at nine different locations throughout California. Breath and/or saliva samples were collected at the peak impaired driving times of 10pm to 3am on Friday and Saturday nights.
According to the survey, about 14 percent of drivers tested positive for drugs that may affect driving ability. This is almost double of what was tested for alcohol at 7.3 percent. Of the 14 percent tested for drugs, 7.4 percent tested positive for marijuana. This means that, according to the survey, more slightly more people are driving with marijuana in their systems than alcohol. What’s more, of the 7.3 percent that tested for alcohol in their system, 23 percent of that group also tested positive for at least one other drug. In other words, about 1.7 percent of all people surveyed tested positive for both alcohol and at least one other drug.
It should be noted that not all drugs tested were illegal drugs. Recall that there are many prescription and over-the-counter drugs out there that can affect driving ability. According to the survey, 4.6 percent of drivers tested for prescription or over-the-counter drugs.
Director of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske said of the survey, “Drugged driving poses a serious threat to public safety. We commend the California Office of Traffic Safety for shedding light on this growing problem and for educating Californians about the prevalence of this danger. We look forward to working with California and other states to raise awareness about this important issue and continue to take action to make out roadways safer.”
The results announced in the press release, although alarming under any circumstance, fail to state to what degree each person was impaired. In other words, we know that 7.3 percent of people tested positive for alcohol, but we don’t know how many of those people tested positive with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher. Or with the case of marijuana, we don’t know how many people tested positive with five nanograms per milliliter of blood (now the legal limit in Colorado and Washington). Certainly, this information is just as important as what was provided.
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